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Overview Environmental Thought and Practice is a major developed by a diverse group of faculty from across the University who are committed to addressing current environmental issues within a broadly interdisciplinary framework. Environmental problems concern natural phenomena whose dimensions are appropriately described by environmental scientists. However, the “problems” themselves result from changes in public perception that are contingent upon cultural constructs and historical events. Attempts to solve these problems necessarily fall within the political sphere, but policy debates draw in principles and discourses from philosophy, economics, and ethics. In short, understanding and solving environmental problems demands the ability to connect ideas from such diverse disciplines as anthropology, literature, history, ethics, politics, ecology, the earth and atmospheric sciences, economics, and land use planning.
The objective of the Environmental Thought and Practice program is to produce students who can:
- comprehend and think critically about scientific information, economic analysis, and the various ethical constructs that enter into environmental decisions; and,
- appreciate how political and social context, historical events, and cultural expectations shape the way we perceive and solve environmental problems.
Faculty The Director of the program is Vivian Thomson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences and Politics. Thomas Smith, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences, is the program’s Founding Co-Director. The Program’s Affiliated Faculty includes Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, Urban and Environmental Planning (School of Architecture); Jonathan Z. Cannon, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Environmental Studies (School of Law); James Childress, Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics; Phoebe Crisman, Associate Dean of Research and Associate Professor of Architecture; Phoebe Crisman, Associate Dean of Research, Associate Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture; Stephen Cushman, Professor, English; Fred Damon, Professor, Anthropology; Cassandra Fraser, Associate Professor, Chemistry; Janet Herman, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences; Deborah Lawrence, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences; Paxton Marshall, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Carl Trindle, Professor, Department of Chemistry; and, Mark White, Associate Professor of Commerce (McIntire School of Commerce).
Students The major is designed for students with a strong interest in the theory and practice of environmental issues. Each spring a maximum of 15 students will be selected for the program from a pool of applicants. Students will be chosen on the basis of prior academic performance, faculty recommendation, and an essay explaining the student’s interest in the field. The program will provide students with a background for continued study in graduate and professional schools or careers in business, government, NGOs, or advocacy groups.